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Offbeat Israel: Gay Pride Brings Religious Zionists to Arab Neighborhoods

Here in Israel, there has been no shortage of secular-religious tensions in recent weeks.

As the Bintel Blog discussed here, there have been the turf wars of Ramat Aviv where secular residents fear a Haredi takeover.

More recently we’ve had violence over recreation. Haredi residents of Jerusalem, where there is no public transport on Shabbat, became furious earlier this month when the municipality opened a parking lot on Shabbat in a bid to give weekend visitors somewhere to park and stop them from blocking the streets.

There were violent protests organized by the hard-line Eida Haredit, which scored something of a coup. On June 12 mayor Nir Barkat agreed to a police request to close the parking lot in question for two Saturdays in an attempt to find a solution that is acceptable to Haredim and non-Haredim. “This was not a capitulation to violence,” said the mayor who was elected on a platform of stemming Haredi control of the city.

Now comes the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade — a source of annual tension as mentioned in this story in the latest edition of the Forward. It is due to take place on Thursday.

Interestingly, the Haredi reaction this year is expected to be measured. But the right-fringe of the religious-Zionist camp is stepping in and planning on making two points at once.

Protestors, led by National Union lawmaker Michael Ben Ari, plan to raise their objections to the Gay Pride parade during marches through Arab towns. This is a strange prospect, as many residents of Arab towns have the same disdain towards gay rights that Ben Ari and his supporters do. Of course, it’s unimaginable that locals in these towns will join in, given that Israeli flags will be waved alongside anti-gay banners.

The rationale behind Ben Ari and company taking their protest against Gay Pride to Arab towns is an intriguing one: They posit that Jerusalem is a predominantly religious city; the majority its residents are opposed to the parade. If that is not enough to stop the Gay Pride march from happening in Jerusalem, then why, they ask, should they not exercise what they deem a parallel right to march with Israeli flags through Arab villages?

“One rule must apply to all,” the Israeli media quoted Ben-Ari saying. “The people from the Open House” — a Jerusalem-based organization that serves the GLBT community — “are not the only ones who have the right to march.”

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